Her teacher groomed her for sex when she was just 15
She was just 15 when she was seduced by her married teacher. Forced to marry her after being exposed, he later ditched her for another woman. Now a single mother to their son, she tells her story
He was her social studies teacher. And she found him funny and witty.
But he took advantage of that and groomed Sarah (not her real name) for months to satisfy his sexual desires.
Eventually, he was found out.
He married her to stop her parents from calling the police.
But in the end, he ditched her for another woman.
Now 21, Sarah is divorced and a single mother to a five-year-old boy.(We are not revealing her identity as there is a strict patient confidentiality clause and we conducted the interview through her counsellor.)
We wanted Sarah to tell her story so she could throw light on what it is like being the target of a sexual predator.
Psychologists and counsellors we spoke to say a crucial step in sexual grooming is gaining the trust of the victim before abusing it. (See report on facing page.)
Last week, a former Straits Times reporter was jailed 18 months for having underage sex with a 15-year-old student.
Eisen Teo Guan Kuan, then 27 and recently married, had sent Whatsapp messages to the victim, which grew increasingly sexual in nature. He later had sex with her several times and once in his home - when his wife was baking in the kitchen.
For Sarah, our victim, it also started when she was 15.
"I was attracted to him because he taught well. He was also a very humorous guy," she says.
She feels that the teacher, who was married without kids and in his 30s then, paid more attention to her in class.
"Because I am pretty, I guess," says Sarah, who describes herself as tall and slim with big eyes.
It started with SMSes from him showing concern.
She says: "I was flattered that he cared so much about me. I told him about my family problems."
She says that her parents were "always working and quarrelling".
Being an only child, she also did not have any close friends.
The teacher's phone messages later became flirtatious, complimenting her on her looks, which she replied to as she felt flattered.
Then, he suggested giving her extra lessons after school to help her prepare for the O levels.
During those sessions when they were together alone in a room in school, he would occasionally touch her, she says.
"I felt very loved and cared for and reciprocated in terms of physical affection as well," she says.
Despite knowing that he was married, she dived in.
She says: "At that time, I was so young, I was so flattered that someone like my teacher would take a fancy to me."
By then, they were spending time alone with each other almost four times a week after school.
From light touches, it quickly escalated to heavy petting within days and finally, sex.
She says: "Yes, we had a lot of physical contact, petting and intercourse.
"We would usually go to quiet places in his car and have a good time together.
"He would say that he needed sex because his wife denied him.
"I felt happy that I was able to help him feel better. I felt pity for him."
About six months after her 16th birthday, she found out that she was pregnant.
That was when their relationship got exposed.
Her parents forced the teacher to marry her. They threatened to report him to the police, she says.
No police report was made in the end.
She says: "I was very happy when he agreed to marry me. I was looking forward to marrying the guy of my dreams."
But the school got wind of what had happened and the teacher went on to teach in another school while she stopped her education, she says.
After giving birth to a boy, she became a full-time stay-home mother.
But it was not a fairy-tale ending.
She says: "He was very cold to me after the marriage."
Soon, he had an affair with another woman.
About four years after the marriage, the couple got a divorce.
He is paying her maintenance and has access to their child.
But the most tragic consequence of all is that her parents have disowned her, she says.
"Every day I seek their forgiveness," she says.
Now, she has to shoulder the burden of bringing up her son as a single mother, working as a waitress.
As for the future, she has no plans.
She says: "I just live day to day, to bring up my son."
Her advice to all the girls out there: Love yourself.
She says: "You do not need to find love and affirmation from any man.
"Do more sports, study hard, don't be vain, have more girlfriends who are supportive and kind. Choose good mentors.
"I'm glad I have a son. I don't have to worry so much when he grows up."
Tell-tale signs that a child is sexually groomed
- The child has explicit sexual knowledge beyond his or her developmental stage.
- The child talks about a new, older friend and suddenly has money.
- The child exhibits cutting, burning or other self-mutilating behaviour.
- The child experiences sudden or extreme mood swings such as rage, fear, anger, excessive crying or withdrawal.
- The child is preoccupied with sex through his or her language, drawings or behaviour.
Aware’s Sexual Assault Care Centre: 6779-0282
(Monday to Friday, 10am to midnight)
Drop-in centre: Block 5,
Dover Crescent, #01-22
Compiled from interviews with:
- Dr Danny Ng, clinical director of Renovare, which provides counselling services;
- Psychologist Daniel Koh who is in private practice at Insights Mind Centre;
- Ms Jolene Tan, programmes and communications senior manager at the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware);
- Ms Joyce Ling, head counsellor at LifeArchitects.
Profile of a predator
- He sees his victim as an "investment", slowly building trust, showering her with gifts and concern.
He wants to create a sense of loyalty and the victim feels beholden to him and their relationship.
- The sexual groomer is always on the prowl for a victim. He selects a target based on his criteria.
He will always go for victims of a certain height, age, looks and image to fit a sexual fantasy.
It is a character he is building. That is why he grooms the victim to fit a certain profile.
- He will test boundaries and how far she is willing to go. If the victim is willing, he will keep her. If the victim is not, such as if she fights back, he will move on to the next one. The groomer usually has a pool of children to choose from.
- Many sexual groomers get away scot-free.
Often, the victims and their families do not want to file a complaint and press charges against the predator. Many victims feel that they are unable to go through the ordeal of the legal process.
Also, parents do not want more pain to be inflicted on their child and will settle for their child's recovery without prosecuting.
- Victims are often too fearful to get out of the relationship.
Most eventually know that they are being abused and in an unhealthy relationship, but feel that they would be betraying their partners if they leave.